By Bob Alger, Guest Commentary
While the political articles that appeared in The Beacon last week were a good wholesome read, their arguments were straight out of their party playbooks and did not say anything new about their subject. As a pragmatist and independent, I was left disappointed. This caused me to throw my own opinion into the fray and see if it'll come out with any claw marks. First up is a review of last week's writers:
Rosie Cullen and Juliet Zimmer of the Democratic side say that Obama did a great job because he's accomplished three main tasks: pulling out of Iraq (finally), the surge in Afghanistan, and passing the health care bill. They do not say why these are positive things, just that, since these were accomplished, Obama has been an excellent president. Also, everything Obama hasn't accomplished is because of the evil Republican opposition. For mid-way through a president's term, I'm not impressed by two bills passed (adding in the stimulus), not screwing up a predecessor's war plan, and taking four months to give what all of his generals say they need. Furthermore, the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves if they cannot accomplish something with control of the House, White House, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for much of Obama's presidency.
Republican Devin Conn raised good points about the stimulus bill, but then translated the success/failure of it to the whole economy. He surmises that since it did not stop the jobless rate from going above 7.5 percent, the economic policy of the Obama administration is a failure. He does not consider successes like TARP, the rescue of AIG, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, GM, or the acts of other countries. As gigantic as the stimulus was, the other programs and reactions of other countries make it look like a side program. In addition, the Obama presidency as a whole so far should not be based on just one bill.
Sam Harris of the idealistic Libertarians is just that, idealistic. For instance, he decries the stimulus and not laying off state employees. If there is one thing you don't want to do in a recession, it is turn off the money spigot. It does not matter if this is through tax cuts or government stimulus, either way you are injecting money into the economy and have to raise taxes later to make it up.
Now onto the fun part, my review of Obama's presidency. On the domestic side, Obama has some big accomplishments to his credit. Two years ago every major economist from the Libertarian Greenspan to the Liberal Krugman said that the economy was on the verge of collapse unless the government acted swiftly. Act they did, bailing out major companies and the housing market, and finally a truly global response. With these powers combined, the global economy was saved. The stock market rebounded, lending has started, and the jobless rate is now out of double digits. It might not've been pretty, it might not've been morally right to bail them out, but the rest of us aren't too depressed right now and that can be credited to Obama.
He is the first president to pass legislation on health care since Johnson, not a small feat. He has promoted green technology through the stimulus, keeping the technology here in order to not trade one foreign energy addiction for another. But that's it, no international consensus and no cap-and-trade yet.
In international affairs, Obama has been terrible. Despite the Peace Prize, his Israel-Palestine push is not going anywhere. North Korea is more belligerent to the point of torpedoing a South Korean ship and Obama can't even get the UN to condemn them. Iran sanctions aren't stopping it from getting a nuke. Africa this year has moved toward less freedom for its people. China is flexing its muscles and stopping much of what Obama wants to accomplish. The Copenhagen conference went up in flames. He hasn't passed a single free trade agreement, even the ones under consideration during Bush. The few good spots are improved relations with Russia and pulling out of Iraq, although Iraq should be entirely attributed to Bush. As for Afghanistan, I'll give him time to let his new strategy work.
To be fair, Obama probably came into office with the toughest set of problems since FDR, but what he's done since taking office is not awe-inspiring. Overall, I can't give him high marks.